The proprietor of Phifty-50, the Eastland Music Group, had sued Lionsgate Entertainment, which had produced the film depicting a young man’s battle with cancer. Eastland claimed a trademark for the phrase ‘50/50’ and sued.
The five-page opinion of the 7th Circuit upheld the earlier decision of the federal district court to dismiss the lawsuit. In his decision given earlier, U.S. District Judge George Lindberg had taken Rogers v. Grimaldi as the standard of review and held that the title of an artistic work can cause a trademark infringement only if it didn’t have any artistic significance or deliberately misled about the source of the work.
Lindsberg found that the title “50/50” had full artistic relevance to the plot of the film in reference to the chance of survival of the main character –a cancer patient.
Writing for the appeals court Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote the “complaint fails at the threshold: it does not allege that the use of ‘50/50’ as a title caused any confusion about the film’s source.”
The judge also commented that no moviegoer would think the jeweler Tiffany & Co was the source of the movie ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and no consumer would ordinarily think that the rap group was the source of the film.
The appeals court also cited at least eight other films with the phrase ‘50/50’ or a variant in its title and that if there were “any prospect of intellectual property in the phrase ‘50/50’” then the music company was a “a very junior user and in no position to complain.”
The case is Eastland Music Group v. Lionsgate Entertainment, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, No. 12-2928.